La Querencia

Homeland is a term that may not mean as much to as many people as it once did. La Querencia “a place on the ground where one feels secure, a place from which one's strength of character is drawn." -Barry Lopez, The Rediscovery of North America (Recently, Estevan Arrellano came to Flagstaff -- in one of his lectures, he mentioned love, which to my poor grasp of Spanish sounded like ‘querencia’- As Estevan was speaking about the connection to land and water and tradition, I could see how these two definitions could go together, and the idea is beautiful to me.) Sometimes it feels strange to be packing up and moving as the first course of action in a project devoted to connection with place. I’ve known and loved many places as home. The velvety emerald forests of the Olympic Peninsula, and the sun baked, windswept, alluringly beautiful southern Colorado Plateau, and the moonscape remains of hydraulic mining, fog shrouded cypress, and rich fall colors of northern California all hold strings to my heart, the memories and tastes of these places like theoretical wedding rings (In Diane Ackerman’s ‘A Natural History of Love’ she says something like, there is a (blood)vein that runs from our ring finger directly to our heart) arching across the continent, from heart to land like so many rainbows of memory. The red, dry rocks and high skies of the Colorado Plateau are as much a part of me as the crashing waves, sheltering redwood and rejuvenating fog of the Pacific Northwest.

There is an aspect of homecoming to this voyage, however—I began my life along the south fork of the Eel River, about 30 river miles from my new home. This feels important to me.

There are numerous logical reasons for what I’m doing, but the truth is—they’re not the real reasons. This migration is due to a deeper yearning, a sort of tugging that I can’t ignore. You could say my feet are hungry for the kiss of dirt, that my mouth aches to taste ‘green’ or that my dreams bring me to the misty places of memory and icy mountain creeks. All of this is true, but it leaves so much out. I want to live with the land I belong to.

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